Volunteer Opportunities

Listed below are a few local and science-oriented volunteer opportunities. They cover anything from outdoor education to citizen science! Many of the organizations listed allow groups of volunteers, as well as individuals. Click on the links at the end of each description for access to the organization’s volunteer application or general volunteer information.

Volunteer Opportunities

California Wildlife Day


March 22 - 23, 2019 at Palo Corona Regional Park

Volunteer for California Wildlife Day! The Carmel River Watershed Conservancy (CRWC) is celebrating California Wildlife Day with a free family event at Palo Corona Regional Park in Carmel Valley on Saturday March 23 from 10AM to 3PM. We will have wildlife experts, organizations, live demos, kids' activities, art and science posters, and free food. We need volunteers! We would love help on Friday (the 22nd) to set up, or Saturday, to assist visitors. If you wish to volunteer, please sign up on the sheet, and email mgalligan@csumb.edu to let her know.

Student poster presentations will also be included in the celebration. If you are interested in displayed your wildlife-related research at this event, please get in touch with Jenny Duggan (jduggan@csumb.edu).

Palo Corona Regional Park landscape

Sea Otter Savvy Program


The Moss Landing based outreach and research program, Sea Otter Savvy, is focused on conducting research on the human impacts to sea otters along the central California coast using a variety of outreach forums to educate the public about sea otter conservation and wildlife viewing etiquette.

Volunteers are required to commit to one 3-5 hours shirt per week for a minimum of 3 months. Each shift will be variably scheduled between dawn and dusk.

For more information on volunteering to help reduce sea otter disturbance, refer to the program description.

Illustration of sea otter resting in the water

Fort Ord National Monument


The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is seeking student volunteers for restoration projects on Fort Ord National Monument (FONM) through May 2019. They will be restoring native habitats including oak woodlands, grasslands, and riparian corridors on FONM.

Projects are highly variable but a student can expect to remove invasive species, monitor goat grazing activity, monitor old restoration sites, work on GIS or remote sensing projects, monitor oak restoration on FONM, collect seeds, close illegal recreational trails, conduct bunch-grass surveys, as well as many more exciting opportunities.

The BLM will work with each student to develop their resume as the volunteer experience will give the student skills needed for future employers. There is no experience or commitment necessary to volunteer. However, students who can commit to a weekly schedule are preferred. Students who can volunteer for 90 hours before the end of May can obtain 2-units of elective course credit. If you are interested in obtaining elective credit, then please contact us as soon as possible so we can help you get enrolled in the proper course.

If interested or have questions, please contact Chris Hart at chart@blm.gov.

Landscape view of Fort Ord National Monument

Association of Environmental Professionals Conference


The Monterey Bay - Silicon Valley chapter of the Association of Environmental Professionals (AEP) will be hosting the upcoming annual AEP Conference on March 24-27, 2019 at the Plaza Hotel & Spa In Monterey.

They would like to invite interested students to participate in the Student Research Poster Contest. They are also recruiting volunteers to participate during the conference.

For more information, refer to the event web page. Interested students should contact Diana Staines at dstaines@ddaplanning.com

AEP conference logo with "waves of change & fields of opportunity" in text

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center Volunteers


The Sanctuary Exploration Center in Santa Cruz is seeking dynamic individuals to become preschool story-time and gift shop volunteers. Preschool story-time volunteers must be able to commit to at least one, 2-hour shift from 9:30 am - 11:30 am each month. Gift shop volunteers must commit to at least two, 4-hour shifts Wednesday through Sunday each month.

For questions, email brijonnay.madrigal@noaa.gov.

Photo of the Sanctuary Exploration Center building in Santa Cruz

Carmel River Watershed Conservancy


The Carmel River is an important habitat for threatened species like the steelhead and California red-legged frog. The Carmel River Watershed Conservancy aims to restore and preserve the biodiversity of the river through education and advocacy.

Are you interested in acquiring Community Service hours and experience teaching students about watershed science? Join the Carmel River Watershed Conservancy (CRWC) team for opportunities to assist with class visits, field trips within the Carmel River watershed, and programming at California Wildlife Day (CWD; celebrated on March 23, 2019).

Please contact Marie Butcher, CRWC Outreach Coordinator for more information at: greenheartworks@gmail.com or (831)915-2706.

Painting of the Carmel River featuring several key species.

UC Santa Cruz Fort Ord Natural Reserve


UC Santa Cruz Fort Ord Natural Reserve (FONR) is part of the effort to protect habitats and species found to be at risk after the military base closure. The Reserve provides teaching and research opportunities on maritime chaparral and associated species.

Selena Vengco, an undergraduate researcher with Dr. Laurel Fox's lab at UCSC, is seeking volunteers to help with her study on manzanita and fire history at FONR. Volunteers would help set out plots, survey and identify plant species, and collect coordinates of potential sandmat manzanita stems. The project provides a unique opportunity for volunteers to gain ecology field work experience. Volunteers are needed for 4-5 hours on Fridays.

If interested, please contact Selena Vengco and Joe Miller.

UCSC Fort Ord Natural Reserve logo

Fort Ord Natural Reserve


UC Santa Cruz Fort Ord Natural Reserve (FONR) is seeking hardworking student volunteers with an interest in ornithology. They will be doing hands-on bird banding through FONR.

The project offers a unique opportunity to learn about mist netting, banding, data collection and processing, and bird safety at FONR. Volunteer experience will provide students with invaluable professional and research skills to cite on their resume. There is no experience or time commitment necessary to volunteer. Times and durations of volunteer opportunities is subject to change with the seasons.

If interested, please contact Joe Miller at joemiller@ucsc.edu and Rachel Perpignani at rperpign@ucsc.edu detailing the following:

  • Interest in bird banding
  • Intended major
  • Any relevant previous experience
  • Availability during fall semester
Bird banded at Fort Ord Natural Reserve

Ongoing Volunteer Opportunities

Big Sur Land Trust

Big Sur Land Trust is a non-profit organization located in Monterey, CA. Their mission is to engage visitors in exciting outdoor activities in an effort to inspire conservation. Volunteers can work on leading hikes, landscaping/trail maintenance, office/work, outdoor education, photography, and more!

Elkhorn Slough

Elkhorn Slough is a careful balance of farming, people, and nature all in one ecosystem. In order to preserve these elements, Elkhorn Slough employs the use of federal and local organizations, as well as dedicated volunteers. Volunteers can help with water quality monitoring, restoration, and can assist as educators!

Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a non-profit public aquarium in Monterey, CA. Their mission is to inspire and educate visitors from various backgrounds on the importance of ocean conservation. Volunteers can work as seasonal tour guides, divers, and can even help care for the otters! Some positions require additional training.

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) is a federally protected marine area off the central coast of California. MBNMS is dedicated to protecting the vital marine resources this area provides. Volunteers can do water quality monitoring, urban runoff collecting, kayaker education, and special programs.

Marine Mammal Center's Monterey Bay Operations

The Marine Mammal Center's Monterey Bay Operations (MBO) rescues stranded marine mammals in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Volunteers assess reported injured marine mammals, transport patients to and from the main facility, and provide public outreach.

Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District

The Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District (MPRPD) works to connect community members with beautiful parks and adventurous trails around the peninsula. Volunteers can become naturalists or assist with their Community ALIVE! (Act Locally In Volunteer Endeavors) program.

Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History

The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History seeks to educate visitors on the natural and cultural diversity that exists on the central California coast. It acts as a living field guide for the community, attracting visitors from all over the world. Volunteers can assist as gardeners, educators, or for special events.

Seymour Marine Discovery Center at Long Marine Lab

The Seymour Marine Discovery Center is dedicated to educating people about the role scientific research plays in the conservation of the world’s oceans. It offers hands-on immersion into the world of ocean exploration and discovery. Volunteers can assist as exhibit guides, school program instructors, and more!

Surfrider Foundation- Monterey Chapter

The Surfrider Foundation works to educate communities on the importance of protecting the ocean. The Monterey Chapter hosts regular beach cleanups at the many beautiful beaches in the area! They provide everything needed for the cleanup, excluding transportation to and from the site.

Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

The Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History (SCMNH) has been connecting people to the wonders of nature for over 100 years. Located above Seabright Beach, the Museum highlights the region’s diverse plant, animal, and human communities from the shoreline of Monterey Bay to the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains. We strive to fulfill our mission to connect people to nature and inspire stewardship of the natural world through an array of educational programs and exhibits focused on natural and cultural history of our region.